Ocean Harbour: Bayard and birthdays

We anchored at Ocean Harbour, across the bay from the listing, rusting hulk of the Bayard. There’s a strange continuity for the old whaling ship was scuttled in 1911, the year Europa was launched half a world away in Hamburg. Now Europa visits and her crew crane their necks at … Continue reading

Macaroni and more

There was plenty more of South Georgia to come, not least the exotic Macaroni penguin. On leaving Grytviken we dropped anchor briefly at Cobbler’s Cove. Several crew took off on a there-and-back again hike to see a colony of Macaroni penguins, so named for their spray of yellow feathers. The … Continue reading

Party, party (and a bit of counting and buildings too)

    The night we spent anchored in the bay at Grytviken, Europa had a party. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has an important research base at King Edward Point (about a kilometer away around the bay, rather less than that in a zodiac), and some of the scientists and … Continue reading

Shackleton: leadership fit for purpose

  Sir Ernest Shackleton died in 1922 at Grytviken. He was back in the south to re-attempt the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Crossing but his heart finally failed as he stayed here preparing the expedition. He is buried in the tiny graveyard overlooking the bay, the biggest marker among the simple white … Continue reading

Whaling HQ in Antarctica: whales, steam and solar

Larsen founded Grytviken as a whaling station, the first land-based such factory in the southern hemisphere. The bay, with its rusting industry and neat white buildings, the scattered bones and indolent fur seals, is an integral part of the whaling era when the Americas, Europe and Asia depended on the … Continue reading

N is for Navigation: #AntarcticAlphabet

Navigation: The process or activity of accurately ascertaining one’s position and planning and following a route The passage of ships (Oxford Dictionary) ‘The demanding test of landfall’ (David Lewis, We The Navigators) Once upon a time, in the old days, those imagined times when everything was better – yet somehow … Continue reading

Ice sheets in Antarctica: losing or gaining?

A friend recently highlighted last year’s NASA research on Antarctic ice-sheets and asked me to comment. So I’m going slightly away from the journey reprise to take a quick jaunt around some of the latest publications. In short: some ice sheets may be thickening slightly but that does not mean … Continue reading

South Georgia Heritage Trust: habitat and ambition

Before disembarking at Grytviken, the Director of the South Georgia Heritage Trust came on board to talk about the challenges and successes of habitat restoration on the island. They’ve got a seriously impressive record. I’ve mentioned the reindeer, but of course they’re fairly big and slow-moving. Once the decision had … Continue reading

Alpine uplands above Maiviken

Maiviken Cove was our next stop.  We headed there only after leaving our anchor behind in the foul ground of Stromness Harbour. Heroic efforts to free it had begun at first light, although the beautiful sunrise was largely unappreciated by the hard-working crew. In the end the chain was pulled … Continue reading

Reindeer and spaceships on the Stromness headland

The zodiacs prepared to land on a small beach across the bay from the Stromness whaling station. Over the steep headland lay Leith whaling station, where Europa would re-anchor and collect us. The kelp is thick along these rocks, giving us a challenge to get close enough in to land. The … Continue reading